“Ungrateful Daughter” at MIT Fri April 30th

As part of the ASAC’s “Adoption: Secret Histories, Public Policies” 3rd International Conference, 2010, on Friday April 30th I’ll be performing UD and sharing the stage with some other writerly folk impacted by adoption, Martha Gelarden, Adam Lazar, Ned Balbo, Rosemary Starace, and Craig Hickman.

Friday April 30th
Bldg 32-Room 123

I’m so excited! I hope if you are near you can come out and say hello.


Dissertating #2 in WA and Oakland, CA Madness

This is actually the place where all the papers are. Don’t be fooled by the first cell phone photo that doesn’t really fully capture the mess that is my work space. Wait until I get home and take a photo of that work space. You’ll be like, “oooooooh!, I see how it is!”

work space 2

So even though I’m technically on lockdown, I was able to get some internet yesterday at the Olympia public library to catch up on the mess that is Oakland. I wanted to share some resources with you that can be an alternative to the mainstream news about the young man, Oscar Grant who was shot and killed by BART police on New Years Eve.

When I get home I’ll post the actual videos, right now I’m just doing links because I don’t have the bandwidth to upload.

The Actual Video (Be WARNED! This is very intense! You cant help but think about the man’s parents and daughter.)

Davey D’s Channel (Video about whats happening on the streets of Oakland)

Local Oakland Hip Hop Artists responses (this amazing video articulates so much of what we already know about the racialization of black youth across the country by the police, the artists featured are such a great example of how deep Oaklands activist roots go. This is the video that you don’t see!)

Asian Adoptee Event in Berkeley

a colloquium
Sunday November 11, 3-5:30 p.m.
at the UC Berkeley Art Museum

Museum Theater
2621 Durant Avenue (between Bowditch and College Ave.) Berkeley Free with museum admission Reception following

What are the identity issues facing adoptees from Asia? How do they experience being Asian American? How have they expressed their experience creatively? These and other questions about Asian American identity comprise the subject of this timely and multi-facetted program, presented in conjunction with the UC Berkeley Art Museum’s major fall exhibition

“One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now,” on view through Dec. 23.

The presenters represent Korean-American, Vietnamese-American, and Chinese-American perspectives. They will explore Asian American identity as it is experienced by young adult adoptees from Asia, as well as probing other issues related to adoptions from Asia. Scholars specializing in transnational adoption will be joined by a poet, a musician, and a filmmaker, all of whose work has been influenced by their personal experiences.

Sara Dorow, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Alberta, is the author of a book on transnational adoption from China, and a former social worker who specialized in adoption. She will discuss how Chinese adoptees in the US and Canada narrate intersections of race, kinship, and the spaces of “home,” and how they have become “poster children” for adoption.

Rebecca Hurdis, UC Berkeley PhD candidate, Korean adoptee, and author of a book on Korean adoption, will examine how ideologies about race are shaped and transmitted through family structures.

Derald Wing Sue, Professor of Psychology, Columbia University Teachers College, is co-founder of the Asian American Psychological Association. Bringing an important psychological perspective to the discussion, Dr. Sue will address the multiple dimensions of Asian American identity confronting adoptees from Asia.

Lee Herrick, poet and Professor of English, Fresno City College, will read from his new poetry collection “This Many Miles from Desire,” and discuss how notions of identity, time and ambiguity in his poetry relate to his adoption from Korea.

Jared Rehberg, New York based composer and musician, will perform “Waking Up American”, written to his Vietnamese birth parents, and “Scrapbook,” composed for a new generation of adoptees, and talk about the relation between his life and his music.

Deann Borshay Liem, filmmaker (“First Person Plural,” 2000), will present an excerpt from her new film-in-progress, which features interviews with Korean adoptees from all over the world, and discuss the political, social, and ethical dimensions of international adoption.

Catherine Ceniza Choy, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, UC Berkeley, has published on adoption from Asia and social constructions of American childhood. She will introduce the program and provide historical context for it, as well as moderate the discussion.

Following the colloquium, the audience is cordially invited to a reception, which will offer the opportunity to talk further with the presenters.

This program is supported by UC Berkeley’s Consortium for the Arts, the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, and the Asian American Studies Program, and co-sponsored by Asia Society Northern California.

For further information, please consult museum website bampfa.berkeley.edu, or call Director of Education Sherry Goodman at (510) 642-8344.

Thank you!

Ive been gone for a few days. Taking a brief, but much needed vacation after TRA camp, then returning back after a great event for AFAAD. We had a good turnout and got our first donations! The film went over really well and we had adoptees, AP’s, siblings and foster parents come out and participate in the discussion. It was a great day! Thank you thank you to everyone who came and for those who gave donations to help us get up and running. Thanks of course to our amazing panelists Connie Galambos, Julia Oparah, Malaika Parker.

Things are cool over here at Ungrateful Daughter home base. Im gearing up for school to start again, and this will be my final year, Im detemined to focus all my energy on getting this dissertation finished! I’m unfortunately going to have to skim back some of the performance work I’ve been doing, but I hope it will only be for about 5 months or so. I MUST get done. Im tired of this thing hanging over my head, Im tired of being at UCB, Im tired of not having any kind of decent income and Im tired of not being able to write what I want to write. I want a house and a garden for heavens sake! Its not too much to ask. And yes, I think because I have no kids, I can afford a house in the Bay area. Watch me. I just need a big enough back yard to have my wild flower garden, my veggie garden and my herb garden! Ok.. so I want about 2 acres.. but Im willing to deal. lol.

Im thinking about all my TRA friends over in Korea right now – Im totally jealous and cant wait until AFAAD is pushing with full steam and making conference connections in the Caribbean and Africa! My heart is with you.

Multi-Racial vs. Multi-Culti

Lately it seems to me that people continue to confuse the term “multi-racial” and use it interchangeably with the terms “multi-cultural” or “multi-ethnic”.  I just want to open a discussion of these terms and place them alongside a discussion of transracial/ international adoption. Because this is a blog entry, I’m going to try to be brief, but I’d love it if ya’ll chimed in with other theoretical texts and novels that display elements of these discussions that I may miss. Finally, this entry is the beginning of a longer piece I am doing on blackness and trans-racial adoption.

When I say “race” or “multi-racial”, usually I’m making a reference to blood, genetics, etc. Example:she is multi-racial, African and Japanese, but it does not follow that because she is half black and half Japanese that she identifies with her blackness AND her asian-ness. Which culture was most prevalent in her life? How do people see her when she walks down the street?

Being “racialized” – is something different than a discussion of ‘race’ as blood lines. The process of being ‘raced’ or ‘racialized’ is a very specific and historical process. For example, the rationalizations of the capture and enslavement of African bodies were made possible by the process of ‘racing’ these African bodies in a particular way that distanced them from the European body. In the eighteenth century, scientists dissected and named the black body in a particular way that first, made direct links between biology and mental capacity, cultural production and of course social/civic mobility. (3/5 of a man)

What that means is that because a black body is ‘different’ or an ‘other’ from a white body supposedly there are specific characteristics that ‘belong’ to black bodies. The difficulty is that these characteristics get confused and ‘essentialized’ or naturalized and then become part of an internal and external dynamic that began in slavery, but continues today.  Specifically, these characteristics have become equated directly to any black body. (eg. “all black people are poor, so all black people have to steal or be on welfare to feed their children.” or “black men are scary and large black men are violent” or “black women are promiscuous and have lots of children, so they live on welfare” or “all black folks live in the ghetto, so if I want to find black mentors for my child, or make my community multi-cultural, I have to live in the hood)

see: The Life and Times of Sara Baartman

online reference: Baartman

see: Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films

Culture – reference to cultural influences. When I talk about culture I talk about it in both a broad sense of culture and a racialized sense of culture ( i.e. cultural production, traditional culture, etc.) In other words culture doesn’t have to just be “African culture” or “African-american culture” or “american culture”. Cultures of technology, visual culture, theatre culture – etc.

When we say multi-cultural what do we mean? I mean that I have been impacted deeply by multiple cultures. I have been impacted by “white” culture – my Afamily’s culture. I grew up in a white community, went to private, all white schools, was surrounded by all white people. I have a particular understanding of both a white, European descent cultural practices (foods, dances, communication patterns, judeo-christian attitudes and values) and a racialized sense of whiteness that functions in concert with how white bodies are positioned in relationship to black and brown bodies. (Ji-in also comments on this)

I have been impacted by Mexican/Chicano culture,having lived in Southern Cali for so long, having spent time in Mexico and coming to understand the deep cultural traditions of Mexican and Chicano familias that are directly intertwined with a history of colonization and slavery of black bodies. I’m impacted heavily by the multi-cultural, hybridity of Caribbean culture and of course, Im heavily influenced by African-American culture. I cook foods that are traditionally African American foods, I listen to music that is specifically African American or stolen from black cultures. All of these cultural influences create for me what I consider to be a particularly ‘diasporic’ cultural black identity.

Why do I attempt to distinguish between “African-American-ness” and “blackness”? Primarily because I think that thinking about the distinctions assists us in thinking about how our multiple identities function. African American culture is a particular cultural identity (that yes, is racialized) and a smaller part of a racialized political identity that I have come to identify as ‘diasporic blackness’. Blackness (in the global sense) is a racialized and political identity that understands the way race functions on a worldwide scale (a global Anti-black sentiment/ Anti-African sentiment) and has particular material effects on the local scale, on ME and how I am percieved, treated or identified by other people as I walk down the street in the U.S. as “black woman”(vs. why an Indian woman in Britian is considered ‘black’). Those material effects are the key to how we need to think about how race and racialized ideologies function differently than culture. These material effects are also are the things that shapes my poltical identity as a black body living in the U.S.

In other words – why are there so many black kids “languishing in orphanages”? Mother’s categorized as ‘unfit’? Mixed-race children hidden because they are part of a race that is undesirable? All those black women drug addicts? Can it really be that simple?

These kinds of distinctions are one way I think to provide a gaze on to the relationship between international and domestic adoptions. How racialized images of ‘foreigners’ or of ‘impoverished African Americans’ both contribute to the ways in which, say for example, The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act, utilize white privilege and class to push for the opening up of the doors of adoption to let those who have the privilege and the money to basically get whatever the hell they want. (but that’s another entry . . . right?)

One final note, this isnt the end all, be all conversation around race vs culture. I definitely at times say something like ‘thats a part of black culture’ when I am talking about whatever diasporic cultural thing – like ‘call and response’ or playing the dozens, (these are diasporic cultural practices, descended from Africa and reshaped in the new world) but again I really think that the idea of an “African American” culture really means just that – a way to describe the particular way that blackness functions in the U.S. – not how blackness functions for example in Britain or Canada. But the common theme here is that blackness (racial/political) runs through all of these conceptions.

Dreams and Genealogy

"I have made it my task to reconstruct the text of a family with contextual clues, and my intent is this: to trust in the mysterious; to juxtapose the known with the unknown; to collect the overlooked, the debris – stones, broken mirrors, and abandoned things. With these I will sew a new quilt of memory and imagination, each stitch a small transformation, each stitch my work of mourning."

from The Language of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka

I went to this talk today on campus by Alondra Nelson who is already someone whose work that I admire (see Technicolor: Race Technology and Everyday Life). But today, she did a talk that examined the rising usage of African American's and Black British families utilizing DNA testing in an attempt to 'trace their roots' to find out where in Africa they may have come from.

I find this study fascinating, not because I think that knowing where you are 'from' in Africa is important, but because of the cultural and political value we place on obtaining and claiming 'Africa'. When I put Africa in quotes here I really mean just that – the IDEA of the fantasy, homeland Africa that still is used as a symbol in so many different circumstance, not the reality of Africa. One colleague mentioned that this idea of Africa continues to be reproduced just by the simply buying into the fact that there is a root somewhere that we think we can find. Its a powerful imaginary – yes?

And it is this desire that fascinates me. Particularly because of the process/ moment I have been going through/ immersed within. Some argue that this desire to find a home is rooted in the actual dispersal of black bodies across the Atlantic, and others argue that it is the attempt to cut off and remove cultural, spiritual and community identities that cause this trauma to the black body across the globe.

There is something about this rupture of removal from home, something about Treong's 'language of blood' and something dangerous and simultaneously 'so right' about the biological thread – yet why does this connection to Africa become so important – especially if we are trying to express the difference and hybridity of 'blackness' that refuses a monolithic idea of racialization. We (black folks) are NOT all the same, we are diverse in powerful ways – ways that include the ways we imagine ourselves, the way we create our stories and how we come to know our own personal identities. (and we know the dangers of a language of biology that gets used to make us inhuman..)

Is my racial specificity important? does it change who I am? how I already imagined myself political and culturally? I don’t know. Does it legitimize me in a weird way? yes. But I'm not sure I care about that – I already moved with the knowing, the creating – the dreaming.